As I prepare for this year’s LINLEY Summer School from 12th – 19th August, I thought I would give some context as to how I come to be one of the selected students. This post is the first of a series, which will follow my progress throughout the experience.
If I refer to Richard Sennett’s definition of the ‘craftsman’: someone who stands for an enduring, basic human impulse, a desire to do a job well for its own sake, which regards all disciplines and domains to objective standards: then I would definitely say I fit within this category of person. Perhaps not strictly within a woodworking or furniture sphere, but most definitely when it comes to leading a creative life. Most would say this is my best asset, however there is also likely to be an equal number who would argue that it can often be my greatest downfall. Establishing a rhythm between problem solving and problem finding is all part of being a craftsperson, and it’s this constant antagonism of striving for perfection and success without becoming too regressive.
I found myself in a dark place creatively last summer. I had walked away from the fine furniture competition at the New Forest Show in Hampshire empty handed, and wasn’t happy with the piece I had entered. I was also unsuccessful in my application for the LINLEY summer school, despite staying up late into the night finishing my entry for their marquetry competition. This made me feel as though I wasn’t good enough to continue on my university course, and that perhaps I would be better off elsewhere.
However, on returning back to college, I spoke with my course leader and was happy to have him reassure me of my design methods and approach to learning. I decided to stick at it and what followed was a very successful year. I was pleased with the body of work I produced; my confidence and knowledge within the workshop has grown significantly; and although surprised, I received the award for Achievements in Design Studies, was given a place on the LINLEY Summer School this summer, and have a design shortlisted for the Wood Awards’ Student Designer Category!
The point being that it is easy to lose perspective and motivation, especially when it comes to creative endeavours, as they can often use up most of our energy. However, following the likes of John Makepeace and Alice Blogg, who both applied without success to the Edward Barnsley Apprenticeship Scheme and who have both gone on to much success, I decided to take these knocks in my stride. The lesson being that no one ever gets to where they want to be- in life, in the furniture industry- without some difficulties!
Will Siggers, who graduated from the Summer School last year, asked me a few questions in preparation for my time with LINLEY.
Why do you have an interest in craft?
Being creative and having something to focus my attention on is incredibly therapeutic for me and often very rewarding. So much of what we do in our modern lives is digital and not tangible, so I think as a reaction I have always been drawn to practical activities and materials.
Where does this stem from?
My great aunt, a keen potter and craftswoman, has been a prominent role model for me whilst growing up, and I like to think she has very much influenced me to pursue what I love.
What are the first things that come to mind when you think of LINLEY?
Prestigious, fine furniture, marquetry.
What do you want to get out/gain from the course?
I hope it will be a great opportunity to meet like-minded people, and a chance to learn from master craftspeople. I think it may give me a new perspective of craft and design, and add another dimension to my own portfolio and practise.
Which designers/furniture makers inspire you and do you look up to?
Sebastian Cox because he is so passionate and knowledgeable about his specific field within the furniture industry, and is effective at making positive change through what he loves to do. Alice Blogg is influential because she is easy to relate to, especially because of her drive, enthusiasm and positivity. And I became familiar with Gareth Neal’s work whilst studying on my Art foundation, and as I have pursued my studies within furniture, I have even more appreciation for his quality of ideas and innovative approach to craft- and his pieces don’t look half bad too!
What are your hopes and dreams regarding a life in design? Where do you see yourself within the design world in the future?
I have always said I want to work for myself- eventually. I think that after I have graduated it would be wise to gain further experience in small-scale workshops, but alongside this I would like to develop my blog: THIS GIRL MAKES, and using it as a means to engage in all areas of the furniture industry: reporting, educating, designing, manufacturing.
Do you see yourself more as a designer or a maker?
My background suggests I might be more of a designer, perhaps because I have always been interested in the arts, but I am keen to become more of a maker and refine my practise, in order to be a better craftsperson in general.
What has been your greatest design challenge so far, how did you overcome it?
After I finished my first year at Rycotewood, I felt a bit lost. This was a result of the standard of other students work being so exceptional that I felt I might not fit in or that my skills weren’t valued. However at the beginning of second year, I told myself to not be deterred by self-doubt and to have the confidence to pursue my own design methods. I was really pleased with the work I produced, and as a result, received the award for Achievements in Design Studies this summer.
Describe your own work in 3 words?
Playful, Honest, Me.
What do you think people’s perception of your work is?
Someone described one of my projects this year as being ‘cartoony’. I took this as a compliment because if my work brings a sense of light heartedness and fun to the user, then I think I have done a good job. Particularly as I am an illustrator, I think my pieces should have a sense of life and playfulness to them because all of my design sketches do.
What is your favourite tool/material to work with and why?
I have worked predominantly with Ash, as it is somewhat of an undervalued material. I read the Robert Penn book The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees and have more of an appreciation for the heritage of the Ash tree. And, I would have to say my favourite tool is a flush saw because it is just so handy!
What aspect of design/making would you most like to learn about?
I think learning about how traditional craft can be effectively applied to modern markets and means of production would be interesting, as I hope to run my own business one day. Perhaps to also find out what methods experienced designer-makers have for working whilst they operate in the context of a successful business.
For more information on the World of LINLEY, visit: http://www.davidlinley.com/world-of-linley/
And to read about last year’s Summer School, visit: https://this-girl-makes.com/2016/11/04/the-linley-summer-school-2016-how-can-this-help-the-future-of-the-furniture-industry/